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Sale of iconic Grange sparks society's anger

Malvern Editorial 5th Jun, 2014 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

THE MALVERN Civic Society has reacted angrily after a deal has been struck to sell iconic town property The Grange for half a million pound.

Malvern Hills District Council – which own the building – made the decision behind closed doors last week which will prevent community groups having six months to prepare a bid and possibly take over the property to ensure its benefit to local people is maintained.

Last summer the council agreed to market the Grade II listed former house based on Grange Road which was last used as the base for the Citizens Advice Bureau.

But before the property was formally put out to tender for an estimated value of £350,000 the authority received an ‘unsolicited offer’ from an undisclosed ‘local company’ which wanted to rent out The Grange for office space.

As a result the council moved to test the market and welcomed formal bids which saw five confidential offers tabled at last week’s meeting including proposals to convert the building for housing and extend the land for car parking space.

It emerged afterwards the Executive committee had voted in favour of accepting the initial proposal for a fee of £500,000, although the council has since refused to confirm the figure.

In March Malvern Civic Society applied for the property to be registered as an Asset of Community Value which would have given local groups half a year to prepare their own bid.

Clive Hooper from the group, claimed there was a local benefactor ready to underwrite the society’s offer but said the council had dismissed it because it was not submitted on the correct form.

Mr Hooper said: “I am bitterly disappointed at what I consider to be the shameful way in which Malvern Hills District Council has sought to frustrate legitimate interests in acquiring The Grange for the benefit of the Malvern community.

“Instead, a report has been rushed through the council’s Executive committee to sell the premises to a bidder.

“There is no mention whatsoever in the report of any community interest, and there has been no consultation with any community group over its future use. This despite all the Society’s efforts. When we did eventually meet council representatives, we were told we were too late.”

Mr Hooper confirmed the society was going to lodge a complaint with the Local Government Ombudsman on the grounds of maladministration.

Ivor Pumfrey, the council’s head of community services, confirmed Malvern Civic Society expressed an interest but said the council did not receive a completed application form ‘despite repeated advice’.

Coun Paul Cumming, portfolio holder for finance and resources, added: “We believe that with the current sale we have secured the best deal for the council and the taxpayer.”

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